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Are Final Exams a Waste of Time? One High School Thinks So

Too much testing? One high school has decided to dump midterms and finals to preserve more classroom time. What do you think?

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo
By Aaron Boyd

Danbury, CT
– Final exams and midterms have been a part of U.S. high school education for decades, but one school district in Connecticut has decided the tests are a waste of time.

“I began to question the validity of all this testing,” said principal Gary Bodaccio. “Is it all worthwhile?”

The district has decided to scrap finals and midterms in favor of more instruction time in the classroom. While many students are overjoyed, critics say they’re missing out on valuable experience they’ll wish they had.

Danbury's decision comes at a time when students face a seemingly endless testing schedule meant to gauge how much they've learned: Advanced Placement tests, ACT, SAT and federal Common Core testing to name a few.

A backlash against Common Core testing in particular has been growing. In some instances, students have been suspended for opting out of Common Core tests. And in Long Island, New York, a protest movement against the Common Core testing led to as many as 20,000 students opting out in April.

Although Danbury is not rebelling against federal mandates, its decision does reflect the growing concern by some that schools need to do more teaching, and less testing.

Bocaccio said he saw valuable classroom time being eaten up preparing for and administering lengthy exams.

Between the four half-days set aside for testing at the end of each semester and the three to five days teachers often use to prepare pupils for the upcoming exams, students were losing as much as 18 days that would otherwise be used for instruction, Bocaccio said. 

That’s nearly 10 percent of the school year — and over the course of a four-year high school education, that adds up.

Besides the lost time, Bocaccio argued the exams don’t have a material effect on most students’ grades and have little to no educational value.

“What we found talking to teachers was that they have plenty of assessments — they didn’t need another grade,” he said, stressing that students will have quizzes and other tests throughout the year, just not “filling out bubbles on a sheet for hours.”

Board of Ed member Michael Ferguson, however, believes there is value in the midterm/finals assessment model and voted against the proposal.

“It’s not so much about the academic part of a test, it’s the emotional and mental preparation,” he said.

“It teaches time management, how to take two big tests back to back, how to manage stress,” all things students should know before they go to college, he said. “The stress is high school times 10 in college. This is not only a bad idea but truly detrimental to students.”

“The most important thing for learning is instructional time with teachers, face-time,” he said.

The principal acknowledged some concerns that students would not be prepared for college exams, though he reiterated there will still be testing going on at the high school.

“If sitting for a two-hour exam is preparation [for college], then we’re doing plenty of that with state testing,” he said.

What do you think? 

Have we gone test crazy at the expense of eduction? Do we, as a country, teach to test rather than educate?
Kent Frederick May 18, 2014 at 09:08 AM
Considering that the vast majority of colleges have mid-terms and finals, having those tests in high school help prepare kids for college.
Dawn Swidorsky May 19, 2014 at 10:56 AM
Is it the testing or curriculum that is the real problem? Yes there are definitely those classes that every student needs to take. My point is that we have students coming out of school who have taken advanced math, science etc. But at the same time, that same student cannot give change at the drive thru window if the cash register broke. That same student cannot articulate in a clear enough manner to train a fellow worker at Starbucks or possibly at a post college/tech school job. Testing needs to exist but maybe we need to fix what is taught and quit trying to fit square students round students triangular students all in the same hole. (standardized tests)
Susan Britt May 20, 2014 at 11:09 AM
Finally someone realizes that students are learning more about test taking than the actual subjects. Learning for the sake of test taking is not learning. It is not enjoyable and the stress gets out of hand. The colleges should consider this as well. Educators have no good idea about how to teach and assess students. The test is the easiest way to eliminate students, grade students, or fail students. Teachers are not trusted to properly assess students so the standardized tests came into being. Ever meet someone who is very bright in school but cannot do well on a standardized test? Or how about the student who does well on tests but fails in the classroom. So what does all that mean?There has to be a better way to do this. Constant testing is not the answer.
brookhavenconfucius June 01, 2014 at 04:07 PM
MORE TIME for indoctrination..HAIL REGIME LEADER !

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